In what, unfortunately, could become a daily article on Indians Baseball Insider for the next week at least, the Indians have released another group of minor league players following the announcement of the opening day rosters for the Lynchburg Hillcats, Lake County Captains and Akron RubberDucks. Coming after the release of Tyler Friis and Mitch Reeves earlier in the week, the Indians have now parted ways with Mitch Longo, Jhan Rodriguez, Erick Heredia, Jothson Flores, Gaspar Palacio, Pedro Alfonseca, Jeikol Contreras, Jesse Berardi, Uly Cantu, Moises De La Cruz and Abraham Figueroa. Below, we’ll break down that group down by level with a little information about each player starting with the biggest surprise of the group.

Double A – Mitch Longo

The only player in the group to be ranked among the top 70 Indians prospects in 2021 was Mitch Longo (#67), and outfielder who reached AA Akron. Born in Mayfield and an attendee of Ohio University, Longo was a fun story to follow from the moment he was taken in the 16th round in 2016. He dominated the New York-Penn League in his rookie season, then crushed it for the Captains in 2017. He came back to earth in Lynchburg in 2017, seeing an increase in K rate and decrease in all three rate stats. He continued to fall the next season in Akron, but still put up decent numbers. With the lost season of 2020, however, he now sits at 26 years old without an at bat in AAA. With many Major Leaguers fighting it out for playing time Columbus this year, Longo appears to be the victim of a roster crunch.

Rodriguez pitches in relief for the Indians during 2019 extended spring training in Goodyear, AZ. – Joseph Coblitz, IBI

High-A & Formerly SS – Uly Cantu, Jesse Berardi, Pedro Alfonseca & Jhan Rodriguez

The Indians are extremely weak throughout the system at first base, but even so Cantu’s .207/.298/.321 career batting line across 180 games didn’t make the cut. He played most of the season in Lake County in 2018, but dealt with injuries that season and the next, never really getting up to full speed. Berardi had a similar story as he hit poorly in LC in 2018 while playing a partial season and struggled with injuries in 2019. He also never came around offensively, batting .259/.308/.350 while playing regularly at second, short and third.

The Indians have been interesting in Alfonseca for a long time, drafting him in 2016 and 2017, then giving him three full seasons in short season and rookie ball despite being 19 already when drafted the second time. He was a good defender in center and could play all three positions, but never hit with his best season coming as a 21 year old in 2019 when he batted .233/.305/.409 between the Scrappers and AZL Indians Blue.

Jhan Rodriguez is one of the more interesting stories that most people haven’t heard about yet. He was originally signed as a 16 year old infielder out of the Dominican Republic and played one year in the DSL before a year in Arizona. He made it all the way to Lake County for a minute in 2018, but never hit at any level and was one of the worst defenders I’ve seen in my life. Not to pile on, but I once saw him commit all three types of errors a second baseman can commit (fielding a batted ball, fielding a thrown ball and throwing) in a single inning in an extended spring training game. Giving up on trying to field or hit, Rodriguez became a relief pitcher in 2019 and was extremely effective. He struck out 32 in 23.1 IP with a 3.86 ERA and 11 walks. The ultimate reason for his cut today, however, was likely due to his age (22), low level and extreme amount of competition at the position.

Contreras crosses the plate after hitting a grand slam for the 2019 AZL Indians Blue. – Joseph Coblitz, IBI

AZL – Gaspar Palacio, Jothson Flores & Jeikol Contreras

These three hitters have a lot in common as they all began their professional careers in 2017, have yet to make it past the Arizona League and have hit less than .220/.320/.330 in their careers. Contreras was the most interesting hitter of the group with a little power and patience in his two Dominican Summer League seasons, but both aspects of his game disappeared in Arizona in 2019. He was also a very poor defender at both third and first base.

Both Flores and Palacio lacked power and patience while being poor fielders as well. The Indians have tremendous depth in the middle infield positions, holding back the 2B/3B Palacio although that didn’t effect the outfielder Flores.

DSL – Erick Heredia, Moises De La Cruz, Abraham Figueroa

Heredia was originally signed by the Phillies at the ripe old age of 19 back in 2016, played two seasons with their DSL affiliates, then came to Cleveland and played another two seasons with the Indians DSL team. While his numbers weren’t bad in 2019 or in his career as a whole (3.63 ERA in 121.1 IP), he wasn’t a strike out pitcher and no player should ever spend four years in the DSL.

Another relief pitcher, Figueroa is four years younger, but did not have success at the level with 49 walks and 26 strike outs in 38 innings. Super utility man Moises De La Cruz also had major issues establishing himself, batting .182/.285/.228 across two seasons. He had the advantage of being able to play five positions (SS, 2B, 3B, LF and 1B), but did not play any of them particularly well.

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